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Ref: Midwives during emergencies provide care to women without access to hospitals

Kansas City Star

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The need for certified midwives



By DEBORAH SMITHEY
Special to The Star
Man-made and natural disasters can occur at any time, as evidenced by Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. Missouri should be prepared for weather, epidemic and terror-related disasters.
What if hospitals are overwhelmed by casualties, disease or infection? Many first responders are not prepared to deal with the special needs of pregnant women and infants. Where will women give birth during the next disaster?

FEMA strongly encourages each state to prepare an out-of-hospital scenario for such conditions. During Katrina, babies born unassisted in the Superdome and on the third floor of Salvation Army Corp Community Centers opened our eyes to the need for a better plan.

The Trust for America’s Health reports that Katrina overwhelmed the institutional facilities we often depend on for health care. In addition, doctors and nurses were forced to perform without the technology on which they heavily rely.

Women and infants are disproportionately and adversely affected by disasters. Missouri women generally expect to give birth in hospitals; 99 percent of births occur there. But during an emergency, hospitals may not be immediately accessible. In the case of pandemic flu, hospitals may not be safe.

Certified Professional Midwives are trained to work in homes and other out-of-hospital settings. Many midwives serve the Amish and Mennonite communities, and are accustomed to working without electricity or other modern conveniences.

Yet their statistics are as good as or better than those of doctors working in hospitals with the same-risk population.

In February 2006, the National Working Group for Women and Infant Needs in Emergencies was formed to ensure that the health care needs of pregnant women, new mothers, and infants are adequately met during and after disaster situations.

Certified Professional Midwives should be part of Missouri’s disaster preparedness plan. There are approximately 1,400 CPMs in the United States. Experienced, community-based certified professional midwives are scattered across the state of Missouri. But because of our current laws, they are not eligible for licenses, but rather are criminalized because of an archaic law.

They are licensed in the majority of other states, and many already include them in their emergency disaster plans. I urge all Missouri policy makers to ensure pregnant and birthing women and their newborns are safely cared for when the next disaster strikes.

Deborah Smithey is president of the Missouri Midwives Association. She lives in Stockton, Mo.

© 2007 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansascity.com

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